What Do YOUR Filing Cabinets Look Like?

I have two types in my office. The two-drawer ones are simple, metallic-white. One holds the printer and the other holds up an end of my desk. I also have two beautiful wooden, four-drawer models, where I tend to store the things I don’t need to dig into quite as often.

And that’s it. That’s my organization system.

Ha. I’ve also got some lovely swamp land in Florida to sell you.

Let’s move on around the room. Next to the tall filing cabinets is what I basically call “The Library Shelf,” meaning this is where books (hopefully) go to when they’ve been read & need to get BACK to their library home. Does it work? Well, good intentions count for something, right? A few of these shelves are also filled with some great, sturdy cardboard boxes from Ikea–where I store things like manilla folders, envelopes, etc. Other than the file type, I have no drawers in my office, so the overflow (okay, some of it) goes here.

The back wall is mostly bookshelves, thanks to Target and my wonderful husband. At one end of that wall, though, is my whiteboard. I bought it at a second-hand office-supply store (aka Dream World for any author). I use it, but not often enough. Right now, it’s got the basic plot arc of my novel up-with lots of questions underneath. When I’m finished with this draft, I’m hoping to use it (with sticky notes) to do something like Robin LaFevers does here, with index cards. (Beautiful, isn’t it?)

Next wall, just a big window, with a futon in front of it, for when guests show up. And some tall narrow shelves that started out organized, but now look like two tall towers of the proverbial “junk drawer” style. Mostly I can ignore the junk because of the great view in the window–our courtyard with lots of greenery inside and gorgeous, tall eucalyptus trees outside.

On the wall I’m facing, more bookshelves. While the books behind me are all my kids’ novels and mysteries, the shelves I face hold my working books. All my writing books and, these days, the research books as well.

When they’re not on my desk, on top of a filing cabinet, or strewn across that futon.

Oops–I forgot the corner. It’s, well…let’s just say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Yes, those are binders. But why, you may be asking, do you need binders if you have filing cabinets. Beautiful, tall, wooden filing cabinets.

I could give you all sorts of reason. Binders are portable; they can go to the coffeehouse or a critique session. I can see the binders easily & remember what I’ve got out there. Nothing else will really fit on that corner shelf; paperbacks tend to just fall out the back.

The real reason is probably not that good. I suspect it’s just…mood.

Yep. There are times in my life where I feel like organizing in files and times when I feel a strong pull toward binders. I suspect that each of those times is driven by the fact that whatever system I HAVE been using is now overcrowded and overwhelming. So I switch gears and develop a new method. Until that system…well, you get the point.

No, it’s really not that bad. I’m pretty sure that, for the number of balls I’m juggling projects I’m working on these days, my organizational skills are adequate, if not superlative. I do know, and appreciate, that I am lucky to have my writing space, with all it’s shelves, windows, and books. I’m sure that over the years, I’ll keep changing and playing with how I store my work, how I keep immediate projects in front of me and past/future presents in their own space.

For today, I’m happy with boxes, binders, and filing cabinets. And, you know, a few not-too-teetery stacks here and there. And there. And there.

How about you? What organizational tools or styles do you use? Which are your favorites, and which are just temporary, until the organization fairy comes with her magic wand to straighten everything out?


  1. Claudine says:

    Lists are the best tool for the organizationally-impaired. You can write them. You can lose them. You can copy them. You can choose them. Oh, sorry, this wasn’t supposed to be a poem. Channeling Dr. Seuss.
    All my attempts at organization begin with a list. And end with a stack of something.
    In my next life I will be organized.


  2. beckylevine says:

    Sounds like me. I’m trying SO hard to create some kind of file/box for each big item on the list. The problem is, then I have to remember where I put it. 🙂

    And LOVE the Dr. Seuss.


  3. P. J. Hoover says:

    I am all about plastic bins. I store everything in them! My files occupy a large one, and I had probably 100 others for various things around the house!


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